Social stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination against, a person based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. Social stigmas are commonly related to culture , gender , race , intelligence, and health. Stigma is a Greek word that in its origins referred to a type of marking or the tattoo that was cut or burned into the skin of criminals, slaves, or traitors in order to visibly identify them as blemished or morally polluted persons. These individuals were to be avoided particularly in public places. Social stigmas can occur in many different forms. The most common deal with culture , gender , race , illness and disease.
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Social stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination against, a person based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. Social stigmas are commonly related to culture , gender , race , intelligence, and health. Stigma is a Greek word that in its origins referred to a type of marking or the tattoo that was cut or burned into the skin of criminals, slaves, or traitors in order to visibly identify them as blemished or morally polluted persons.
These individuals were to be avoided particularly in public places. Social stigmas can occur in many different forms. The most common deal with culture , gender , race , illness and disease. Individuals who are stigmatized usually feel different and devalued by others. Stigma may also be described as a label that associates a person to a set of unwanted characteristics that form a stereotype.
It is also affixed. A considerable amount of generalization is required to create groups, meaning that people will put someone in a general group regardless of how well the person actually fits into that group. However, the attributes that society selects differ according to time and place. What is considered out of place in one society could be the norm in another. When society categorizes individuals into certain groups the labeled person is subjected to status loss and discrimination.
Stigma may affect the behavior of those who are stigmatized. Those who are stereotyped often start to act in ways that their stigmatizers expect of them. It not only changes their behavior, but it also shapes their emotions and beliefs. Because of this, identity theories have become highly researched. Identity threat theories can go hand-in-hand with labeling theory.
Members of stigmatized groups start to become aware that they aren't being treated the same way and know they are likely being discriminated against. Studies have shown that "by 10 years of age, most children are aware of cultural stereotypes of different groups in society, and children who are members of stigmatized groups are aware of cultural types at an even younger age. He wrote:. Imagine a society of saints, a perfect cloister of exemplary individuals. Crimes or deviance, properly so-called, will there be unknown; but faults, which appear venial to the layman, will there create the same scandal that the ordinary offense does in ordinary consciousnesses.
If then, this society has the power to judge and punish, it will define these acts as criminal or deviant and will treat them as such. Erving Goffman was one of the most influential sociologists of the twentieth century. He described stigma as a phenomenon whereby an individual with an attribute which is deeply discredited by their society is rejected as a result of the attribute.
Goffman saw stigma as a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity. More specifically, he explained that what constituted this attribute would change over time. An attribute that stigmatizes one type of possessor can confirm the usualness of another, and therefore is neither credible nor discreditable as a thing in itself. In Goffman's theory of social stigma, a stigma is an attribute, behavior, or reputation which is socially discrediting in a particular way: it causes an individual to be mentally classified by others in an undesirable, rejected stereotype rather than in an accepted, normal one.
Goffman defined stigma as a special kind of gap between virtual social identity and actual social identity :. While a stranger is present before us, evidence can arise of his possessing an attribute that makes him different from others in the category of persons available for him to be, and of a less desirable kind—in the extreme, a person who is quite thoroughly bad, or dangerous, or weak. He is thus reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted discounted one.
Such an attribute is a stigma, especially when its discrediting effect is very extensive [ Goffman The wise normals are not merely those who are in some sense accepting of the stigma; they are, rather, "those whose special situation has made them intimately privy to the secret life of the stigmatized individual and sympathetic with it, and who find themselves accorded a measure of acceptance, a measure of courtesy membership in the clan.
An example is a parent of a homosexual; another is a white woman who is seen socializing with a black man. Limiting ourselves, of course, to social milieus in which homosexuals and ethnic minorites are stigmatized. Until recently, this typology has been used without being empirically tested. A study  showed empirical support for the existence of the own, the wise, and normals as separate groups; but, the wise appeared in two forms: active wise and passive wise.
Active wise encouraged challenging stigmatization and educating stigmatizers, but passive wise did not. Goffman emphasizes that the stigma relationship is one between an individual and a social setting with a given set of expectations; thus, everyone at different times will play both roles of stigmatized and stigmatizer or, as he puts it, "normal".
Goffman gives the example that "some jobs in America cause holders without the expected college education to conceal this fact; other jobs, however, can lead to the few of their holders who have a higher education to keep this a secret, lest they are marked as failures and outsiders.
Similarly, a middle-class boy may feel no compunction in being seen going to the library; a professional criminal, however, writes [about keeping his library visits secret]. Individuals actively cope with stigma in ways that vary across stigmatized groups, across individuals within stigmatized groups, and within individuals across time and situations.
The stigmatized are ostracized, devalued , scorned, shunned and ignored. They experience discrimination in the realms of employment and housing. Although the experience of being stigmatized may take a toll on self-esteem, academic achievement, and other outcomes, many people with stigmatized attributes have high self-esteem, perform at high levels, are happy and appear to be quite resilient to their negative experiences. There are also "positive stigma": it is possible to be too rich, or too smart.
This is noted by Goffman in his discussion of leaders, who are subsequently given license to deviate from some behavioral norms because they have contributed far above the expectations of the group. This can result in social stigma. From the perspective of the stigmatizer, stigmatization involves threat, aversion [ clarification needed ] and sometimes the depersonalization of others into stereotypic caricatures.
Stigmatizing others can serve several functions for an individual, including self-esteem enhancement, control enhancement, and anxiety buffering, through downward-comparison —comparing oneself to less fortunate others can increase one's own subjective sense of well-being and therefore boost one's self-esteem.
Current views of stigma, from the perspectives of both the stigmatizer and the stigmatized person, consider the process of stigma to be highly situationally specific, dynamic, complex and nonpathological. German-born sociologist and historian Gerhard Falk wrote: .
All societies will always stigmatize some conditions and some behaviors because doing so provides for group solidarity by delineating "outsiders" from "insiders". Falk  describes stigma based on two categories, existential stigma and achieved stigma.
He defines existential stigma as "stigma deriving from a condition which the target of the stigma either did not cause or over which he has little control. Falk concludes that "we and all societies will always stigmatize some condition and some behavior because doing so provides for group solidarity by delineating 'outsiders' from 'insiders'".
The majority of stigma researchers have found the process of stigmatization has a long history and is cross-culturally ubiquitous. Bruce Link and Jo Phelan propose that stigma exists when four specific components converge: . In this model stigmatization is also contingent on "access to social , economic , and political power that allows the identification of differences, construction of stereotypes , the separation of labeled persons into distinct groups, and the full execution of disapproval, rejection , exclusion, and discrimination.
Identifying which human differences are salient, and therefore worthy of labeling, is a social process. There are two primary factors to examine when considering the extent to which this process is a social one.
The first issue is that significant oversimplification is needed to create groups. The broad groups of black and white , homosexual and heterosexual , the sane and the mentally ill ; and young and old are all examples of this. Secondly, the differences that are socially judged to be relevant differ vastly according to time and place. An example of this is the emphasis that was put on the size of the forehead and faces of individuals in the late 19th century—which was believed to be a measure of a person's criminal nature.
The second component of this model centers on the linking of labeled differences with stereotypes. Goffman's work made this aspect of stigma prominent and it has remained so ever since. This process of applying certain stereotypes to differentiated groups of individuals has attracted a large amount of attention and research in recent decades. Thirdly, linking negative attributes to groups facilitates separation into "us" and "them". Seeing the labeled group as fundamentally different causes stereotyping with little hesitation.
At this extreme, the most horrific events occur. The fourth component of stigmatization in this model includes "status loss and discrimination ". Many definitions of stigma do not include this aspect, however, these authors believe that this loss occurs inherently as individuals are "labeled, set apart, and linked to undesirable characteristics. Thus, stigmatization by the majorities, the powerful, or the "superior" leads to the Othering of the minorities, the powerless, and the "inferior".
Whereby the stigmatized individuals become disadvantaged due to the ideology created by "the self," which is the opposing force to "the Other. The authors also emphasize  the role of power social , economic , and political power in stigmatization. While the use of power is clear in some situations, in others it can become masked as the power differences are less stark.
An extreme example of a situation in which the power role was explicitly clear was the treatment of Jewish people by the Nazis. On the other hand, an example of a situation in which individuals of a stigmatized group have "stigma-related processes" [ clarification needed ] occurring would be the inmates of a prison. It is imaginable that each of the steps described above would occur regarding the inmates' thoughts about the guards. However, this situation cannot involve true stigmatization, according to this model, because the prisoners do not have the economic, political, or social power to act on these thoughts with any serious discriminatory consequences.
Sociologist Matthew W. Hughey explains that prior research on stigma has emphasized individual and group attempts to reduce stigma by 'passing as normal', by shunning the stigmatized, or through selective disclosure of stigmatized attributes. Yet, some actors may embrace particular markings of stigma e.
Hence, Hughey argues that some actors do not simply desire to 'pass into normal' but may actively pursue a stigmatized identity formation process in order to experience themselves as causal agents in their social environment.
Hughey calls this phenomenon 'stigma allure'. While often incorrectly attributed to Goffman the "Six Dimensions of Stigma" were not his invention. They were developed to augment Goffman's two levels — the discredited and the discreditable.
Goffman considered individuals whose stigmatizing attributes are not immediately evident. In that case, the individual can encounter two distinct social atmospheres. In the first, he is discreditable —his stigma has yet to be revealed but may be revealed either intentionally by him in which case he will have some control over how or by some factor, he cannot control. Of course, it also might be successfully concealed; Goffman called this passing. In this situation, the analysis of stigma is concerned only with the behaviors adopted by the stigmatized individual to manage his identity: the concealing and revealing of information.
In the second atmosphere, he is discredited —his stigma has been revealed and thus it affects not only his behavior but the behavior of others. Jones et al. There are six dimensions that match these two types of stigma: .
It is a look into the world of people considered abnormal by society. Stigmatized people are those that do not have full social acceptance and are constantly striving to adjust their social identities: physically deformed people, mental patients, drug addicts, prostitutes, etc. He looks at the variety of strategies that stigmatized individuals use to deal with the rejection of others and the complex images of themselves that they project to others. In the first chapter of the book, Goffman identifies three types of stigma: stigma of character traits, physical stigma, and stigma of group identity. Stigma of character traits are:. Physical stigma refers to physical deformities of the body, while stigma of group identity is a stigma that comes from being of a particular race, nation, religion, etc.
Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity